Shopping around brings steep prescription drug savings, report finds

March 28, 2013
Shopping around brings steep prescription drug savings, report finds
Prices varied four-fold between pharmacies, and there are ways shoppers can save big bucks, experts say.

(HealthDay News) —Prescription drug prices at U.S. pharmacies can vary widely, and failing to shop around could result in people overpaying by as much as $100 or more a month on average, depending on the drug, a new study finds.

Researchers at Consumer Reports called more than 200 pharmacies across the United States to get retail (out-of-pocket costs) for a one-month supply of five popular medicines that have recently gone generic.

The medicines were: the Actos (pioglitazone); the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram); the cholesterol-lowering Lipitor (); the (); and the asthma drug Singulair (montelukast).

For a one-month supply of these drugs, there was a $749 difference between the highest- and lowest-priced stores—a more than four-fold difference, according to the study in the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Overall, Costco outlets had the lowest retail prices and CVS had the highest, the report found. Among the specific findings:

  • A month's supply of generic Lipitor cost $17 at Costco, compared with $150 at CVS. Prices at Rite Aid and Target were also high.
  • A month's supply of generic Lexapro cost $7 at Costco and $126 at CVS. On average, Rite Aid, and grocery store pharmacies also charged higher prices.
  • A month's supply of generic Plavix cost $12 at HealthWarehouse.com and $15 at Costco, compared with $180 at CVS.
Different business approaches are one reason for the wide price variations, according to Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor at Consumer Reports.

"It really comes down to a store's business model. For example, big box stores tend to use their pharmacies as a way to get consumers through the door with the expectation that they'll buy other things," she explained in a Consumer Reports news release.

If you want to get the best deals, shop around and always request the lowest price, Gill advised.

"A consumer can't assume that the price of their prescription medications is set in stone," she said. "One of the big takeaways is that you have to ask for the best price and see if your pharmacist will work with you. Especially for the independent pharmacies, if they want to retain your business and loyalty, they will help you get the best price," she said.

Other ways to save money include:

  • Using generic drugs, which contain the same active ingredients as brand name drugs.
  • Getting refills for 90 days, not 30 days. Most pharmacies offer price reductions on a three-month supply of a medicine.
  • Look for other discounts. All chain and big-box pharmacies offer discount generic drug programs, with some selling hundreds of generic drugs for $4 a month or $10 for a three-month supply.
  • Try shopping in rural areas. The study found that some grocery store pharmacies and independent drug stores had higher prices in cities than in rural locations. For example, a 30-day supply of generic Actos cost $203 at a in Raleigh, N.C., compared with $37 at a pharmacy in a rural area of the state.

Explore further: Toward competitive generic drug prices in Canada

More information: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about generic drugs.

Related Stories

Toward competitive generic drug prices in Canada

November 19, 2012

The commitment of Canadian premiers to lower generic drug prices is a major change in how the country prices generic drugs, and government should learn from past attempts, states an article published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical ...

Recommended for you

New research shows vaccine protection against Zika virus

June 28, 2016

The rapid development of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the Zika virus (ZIKV) is a global priority, as infection in pregnant women has been shown to lead to fetal microcephaly and other major birth defects. The World ...

Nearly 1 in 3 on Medicare got commonly abused opioids

June 22, 2016

Nearly 12 million Medicare beneficiaries received at least one prescription for an opioid painkiller last year at a cost of $4.1 billion, according to a federal report that shows how common the addictive drugs are in many ...

Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

October 2, 2015

Everyone knows that exercise improves health, and ongoing research continues to uncover increasingly detailed information on its benefits for metabolism, circulation, and improved functioning of organs such as the heart, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.